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David Oreck, known as founder of vacuum cleaner company, will be memorialized on Feb. 23

DAVID ORECK, the founder and highly visible spokesman for the Oreck Corporation, the famous vacuum cleaner company, died on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at his home in Mississippi. He was 99.


Born in Duluth, Minnesota, Oreck seemed determined from his earliest days to take on the world.  He was a small, red-headed boy who constantly got into fights with bigger kids. It was this scrappiness that was ultimately the very trait that allowed him to succeed.

He dropped out of his freshman year in college to join what was then the Army Air Corps and served in the Pacific as a B-29 navigator. His WWII experiences reinforced a deep sense of patriotism that reflected in his commitment to American-made products.

Embued with a lifelong love of aviation, Oreck was an active pilot well into his eighties. He also built a significant collection of historically important aircraft.

But Oreck’s true passion was for sales and marketing.  He had a great gift for telling a story and captivating his customers. Moving to New York City after the war,  Oreck honed his sales skills under the legendary General David Sarnoff, becoming his best salesman for the then-exclusive distributor for RCA television and Whirlpool appliances for the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Eventually, he took over as the CEO of the failing RCA distributorship for Louisiana and Mississippi. It was in that capacity he created several national marketing strategies for RCA from the warehouse and offices located along River Road in Metairie.

In 1963, he founded Oreck Corporation – initially as the exclusive national distributor for Whirlpool branded vacuum cleaners.  It was at this time he pioneered the use of direct mail/direct marketing for vacuum cleaners.  The conventional thinking was that vacuums were a product that would only sell off the showroom floor.  But Oreck’s smart and compelling marketing story allowed direct mail approaches and direct sales to hotels to be immensely successful.

Just as Oreck defied convention with his direct marketing techniques, he also believed he could sell a vacuum cleaner that was radically different.  At that time consumers had been trained to believe that a good vacuum cleaner had to be heavy. He felt otherwise. A good vacuum could be powerful and durable, yet lightweight. Oreck pitched his product over TV ads, promoting his revolutionary product himself. By the time the company was sold in 2003, the 8-pound Oreck vacuum had become the premier high performance floor care product.

In his later years Oreck became very active in education. He was a featured lecturer at many leading universities about entrepreneurship and premium branding. He was also committed to educating the younger generation about America’s role in World War II.

He was also actively involved in real estate sales and bought and operated the Security Center in downtown New Orleans as one of his properties.

Oreck was preceded in death by his son, Dr. Steven Oreck,  in 2019.  He is survived by his wife, Jan Gurlinghouse Oreck, his sons Thomas Oreck and Bruce Oreck, his seven grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

A visitation will be held on Thursday, February 23, 2023 at 11:00 a.m., followed by funeral services at 1:00 p.m. from Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home, New Orleans with Rabbi Katie Bauman of Touro Synagogue officiating.  Private interment will follow in Metairie Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations in his honor can be made to the National World War II Museum.

 Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. For more information, call 504-486-6331.

*Photo from Business Journals via Wikipedia Media.




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